The First National Exhibitor's Circuit was founded in 1917 as a merger of 26 regional rental companies under the leadership of Thomas L. Tally . Originally the purpose of the company was to finance films and then take over the distribution, but it was soon followed by its own production. First National was a response to Paramount's dominant position that monopolized the business more and more. WW Hodkinson , dismissed by the new Paramount owner Adolph Zukor , became director of First National.
The business model initially worked well. With the recruitment of Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin for one million dollars each per film, they had the most important stars on their side and also controlled around 3,400 cinemas in 1919/1920, which corresponded to 15 to 20% of the American market.
However, as it was not possible to retain the stars in the long term (they founded United Artists in 1919 , but had to shoot a few more films due to the current contracts, which is why the company was still in relatively good shape in 1920), and because the planned merger with Paramount failed spectacularly , First National was going downhill rapidly. Paramount gradually bought up the individual merged companies until First National was bought by Warner Brothers in September 1928 . As a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, First National made numerous other films until the mid-1930s, until First National was finally dissolved in 1936.